tv NBC Nightly News NBC September 10, 2010 7:00pm-7:30pm EDT
inferno. a thunderous explosion, a gas main shooting flames 300 feet in the air. death and injuries. a neighborhood has been levelled. now, the search for answers ongoing outside san francisco. one nation. what president obama said today about the pastor and the koran and what it says about our country lately. lessons of 9/11. a father who lost his firefighter son at ground zero in new york making sure young people learn and remember. and "making a difference" -- a new approach to helping cancer patients live better and live longer. it's why we're gathered here tonight, to stand up to cancer. it's why we're gathered here tonight, to stand up to cancer. "nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. we come to you tonight from a
huge hollywood sound stage where later this evening we'll be hosting "stand up to cancer." we'll have more on that a bit later on in this broadcast. we must begin with a major news story just up the coast from us here in california. it was dinner time last night, about 6:15 in san bruno, california, the routine of a normal thursday in the neighborhood was shattered by an explosion so loud it was heard for miles. then came the geyser of flames shooting 300 feet in the air and then the noise. people near the blast zone understandably thought it was an earthquake, a nuclear explosion, perhaps a plane had gone down. turned out to be a natural gas line exploding and a fire that wasn't brought under control until just this afternoon. san bruno is a city of about 30,000 people, give or take, just south of san francisco, just west of that city's airport, sfo. federal investigators have converged on the neighborhood where the gas main blew up. we begin our broadcast tonight from the scene.
our own kristen welker and miguel almaguer are there for us tonight. miguel, good evening. >> reporter: brin, good evening. the national transportation safety board is leading this investigation. the blast has already been called a state of emergency. this city reeling from an explosion so powerful it claimed lives and forever charred the landscape here. as day broke in a neighborhood not far from san francisco international airport, smoldering debris from 38 burned-out homes is all those left. firefighters hosed down hot spots as dogs searched the rubble. four are confirmed dead, a number authorities fear could rise. a massive water-filled crater marked the center of the blast. >> we thought a jet had gone down. >> reporter: at dinner time thursday, a gas-fuelled fireball shot hundreds of feet into the air.
the explosion forcing families to run for their lives. >> i seen a chunk of concrete fly out the size of the trunk of a car. >> reporter: windows shattered, asphalt melted. the force of the blast was felt miles away. it was chaos and confusion. one resident called it hell on earth. >> i thought we were having an earthquake. nothing happened, so i looked out the kitchen window and saw this huge egs explosion. >> reporter: she was doing paperwork, her husband watching football when the walls shook and roof trembled. didn't think you'd make it out? >> no, i didn't. >> reporter: the fire spread instantly from house to house. firefighters struggled to control the growing blaze, hampered by exploding gas lines and fire hydrants with no water source. >> it was difficult to approach. it was that hot. we couldn't be successful putting out the fire with the supply being shut down. >> reporter: the cause of the blast is under investigation, but the local gas company,
pacific gas & electric, says a 30-inch gas line likely ruptured. a google earth image from 2007 shows the spot had been marked for maintenance or repair. today, that spot was still too dangerous to reach. now the search for answers begins in a community torn apart by a blast where little is left standing. miguel almaguer, nbc news, san bruno, california. >> reporter: i'm kristen welker. almost as quickly as flames engulfed this quiet northern california neighborhood, questions arose. how could a disaster of this scale happen? >> a huge fire and smoke everywhere. we just ran for our lives. >> reporter: investigators are hoping to gain access to a gas pipe that's 40 to 50 years old. >> we are constantly working every day to make sure we are maintaining the integrity of
that system. >> reporter: it would not be the first time aging systems played a role in tragic accidents. in 2009, two and a half tons of metal fell from the bay bridge in san francisco during rush hour. there was only one minor injury but traffic was disrupted for months. in 2007 this eight-lane steel bridge in minnesota collapsed during rush hour traffic, killing 13 people and injuring dozens more. the same year that a steam pipe exploded near manhattan's grand central terminal, another close call. >> it is probably just a failure of part of the infrastructure. >> reporter: no surprise to the nation's top engineers. >> we have been applying a patch and pray system to our infrastructure. >> reporter: in a report card issued last year, america's infrastructure got a cumulative ranking of d. one in four of the nation's bridges were found to be structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. poor road conditions contributed to 14,000 deaths.
aging water pipes discharged 10 billion gallons of raw sewage. >> unfortunately over the last several decades we have sort of become complacent and allowed this infrastructure to deteriorate. >> reporter: this neighborhood just the latest warning sign of aging systems that can be as close as our own backyard. investigators say it could be a long time before they determine the exact cause of this latest disaster. and it will likely raise a lot of questions nationwide. brian? >> kristen welker and miguel almaguer reporting from the scene. thanks to you both. we shift our focus now to washington and a presidential news conference that came at the end of a week when president obama has been out on the offensive on the economy, blaming republicans for holding back his efforts to improve things in this country. once again he was forced to talk about other issues including the florida pastor who threatened to burn the holy koran. we get details now from our white house correspondent savannah guthrie on the north
lawn tonight. good evening. >> reporter: good evening to you, brian. with election day less than two months away and his party facing the prospect of a blowout in the mid-terms, the president was anxious to talk about efforts to improve the economy and put pressure on republicans for not offering better ideas. he spent a fair bit of time trying to quiet a cultural storm over islam in america. on the eve of the anniversary of 9/11, the president found himself trying to lower the national temperature, making an impassioned plea for religious tolerance. >> we have to make sure that we don't start turning on each other. i will do everything that i can as long as i'm president of the united states, to remind the american people that we are one nation under god. we may call that god different names, but we remain one nation. >> reporter: nine years after the terrorist attacks, anti-muslim sentiment is seeing a resurgence. a florida pastor's threat to
burn the koran this weekend led to widespread protests again in afghanistan today. one person was killed, more than ten injured. today, the president sternly warned the florida pastor the act would cause profound damage to u.s. troops. >> our sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, husbands and wives who are sacrificing for us to keep us safe. you don't play games with that. >> reporter: after his own comments last month on plans to build an islamic community center and mosque two blocks from ground zero stoked the firestorm, today the president sidestepped the question of whether it was wise for the muslim group to build there but .gain defended its right to do >> they are our neighbors. they're our friends. they're our co-workers. and, you know, when we start acting as if their religion is
somehow offensive, what are we saying to them? >> reporter: but the president was quick to point to his own christianity, mindful of recent polls that show nearly 20% of americans believe he is a muslim. >> as somebody who relies heavily on my christian faith in my job, i understand that the passions that religious faith can raise. >> reporter: on that koran protest, over the weekend the president said, "my hope is that this individual, the pastor, prays on it and refrains from it." brian? >> all right. savannah guthrie at the white house tonight. savannah, thanks. now about that pastor in florida, terry jones, and what he is planning now. our own kerry sanders has been following that story in gainesville, florida, and is with us from there again tonight. kerry, good evening. >> reporter: well, good evening, brian. pastor terry jones left it to
his son and a controversial evangelical minister to announce the plan to bu more than 200 koran has ended. there will be no korans burned at all. so the worldwide attention on this church and this field in rural central florida ends. pastor jones says he may not even be here himself tomorrow. he's planning on going to new york city where he hopes to meet with imam faisal abdul rauf who hopes to build the muslim cultural center near ground zero. pastor zones wants to tell him he wants that mosque moved. tonight the imam says he has no plans to meet with pastor jones and he has no plans to move the mosque. brian? >> all right. kerry, thanks. we have an update on one of the american hikers who has been imprisoned in tehran. last night we reported the iranian government announced
that sarah shourd would be freed in honor of the end of ramadan. tehran's prosecutor says tomorrow's release has been cancelled because the legal process there is not complete. the president of the united states has informed an active duty member of the u.s. army that he will be receiving the medal of honor for his actions in the korengal valley in afghanistan in 2007. he is a staff sergeant from iowa named salvatore giunta. what's more notable about this is he will be the first living recipient of the medal of honor from either of our nation's current dual wars in iraq and afghanistan. for that matter, the first living recipient since the vietnam war. there are 87 living recipients. all others recently have been awarded posthumously for heroic actions that took their lives. that's the case with two other recipients of the medal of honor
the white house has announced in recent days. and now as we promised, a word about why we are here in this massive studio sound stage tonight where we will be hosting a live special across all the broadcast networks at once, for that matter, across 17 networks in all. it's all called "stand up to cancer." it's a night to come together against this disease. so those of us who compete each night in the network evening news business are also coming together this one night. my friends katie couric and diane sawyer are both here doing their network evening newscasts. the three of us are coming to host together along with a slew of stars. it is tonight here on nbc at 8:00 eastern and pacific, 7:00 central time. we'd love for you to tune in for it. it's a cause near and dear to us all. when "nightly news" continues in just a moment, a father's tribute to his firefighter son, killed on 9/11. making sure the young people of
this country learn from it with the anniversary coming up tomorrow. and later, a simple change in the way cancer patients are treated, making their lives better and making a big difference in the process. better and making a big difference in the process. at ge capital, [ mal] we're out there every day with clients like jetblue -- financing their fleet, sharing our expertise, and working with people who are changing the face of business in america. after 25 years in the aviation business, i kind of feel like if you're not having fun at what you do, then you've got the wrong job. my landing was better than yours. no, it wasn't. yes, it was. was not. yes, it was. what do you think? take one of the big ones out? nah. introducing total plus omega-3 honey almond flax cereal. all the nutrition of total, plus 10% daily value omega-3 ala, and a delicious honey almond crunch. new total plus omega-3. and a delicious honey almond crunch.
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allegiance ] >> reporter: and then for some students took an unusual turn. >> so we turned on the tv and we watched the day unfold. >> reporter: that day, 9/11, when most of these students were 7 or 8-year-old grade school kids whose teachers sought to they really didn't want to ing talk about it that much. >> reporter: little was said then and much was forgotten. this pilot course in the history of 9/11 is intended to change that. >> reporter: the curriculum was created by retired firefighter lee iopi whose son was one of the more than 300 firefighters who died on 9/11. some 2 million visitors have come through the center including phillipsburg teacher sherry cheston. amid the images, difficult questions addressed. >> how do you talk about radical as opposed to good islamic people. >> reporter: he's explored the answers himself with muslims who are among his colleagues. he says many teachers have come through and said, i have to get it to the students it hasn't happened.
and 9/11 has to be taught, he says, or these students might only learn history through the prism of a day's headlines. >> they are learning what somebody in florida may say about burning the koran. >> reporter: instead of real history, even if it's painful history, to keep it from being repeated. >> we don't forget the holocaust. we don't forget slavery. we educate. we teach it. >> reporter: these students say they get it. >> we have to learn about this. we have to know why it happened, what we can do to prevent it. >> reporter: lee's point exactly. >> my son is not going to come back. i would rather do something more progressive. i would rather think about tomorrow. >> reporter: but today, just one middle of america town with fewer residents than the number of 9/11 victims is teaching. mike taibbi, nbc news, new york. >> hard to believe nine years tomorrow. great story about an important lesson. on wall street back in new york today, stocks finished slightly higher.
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after katrina in new orleans in that region and where they might be headed. it's called "new orleans: an american story." we're very proud of this hour of television. it airs tonight, 10:00 eastern on msnbc. tonight, as we mentioned it will be l.a.'s turn in the spotlight where the major tv networks are all here in this room drawing forces to draw attention to cancer research, prevention and treatment. more on that later on. first, we have an appropriate making a difference report tonight about a simple change in strategy that can improve and even prolong the lives of cancer patients. our report tonight from our chief medical editor dr. nancy snyderman. >> i get tired. >> reporter: when 45-year-old jim windhorse was diagnosed with an advanced aggressive form of lung cancer, he and his wife terry were blindsided. >> we were trying to figure out how to move forward, how do you raise our kids. >> i have been experiencing some
vertigo. >> reporter: jim joined a study at massachusetts general hospital. a team of palliative care specialists, doctors, nurses and psychologists who are trained to provide end-of-life care, instead focus on ways to extend life through early intervention. >> traditionally this team would see people late in the disease. what's different about our study is we asked them to see patients who were newly diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. >> reporter: those patients begin standard cancer care, but are immediately partnered with a palliative care specialist to find ways to ease the turmoil almost always triggered by a serious cancer diagnosis. when the study ended in 2009, the patients had fewer hospitalizations and lived longer, an average of three months longer than patients getting standard cancer care alone. not only did the patients live longer, they reported lower levels of pain, nausea, depression and better mobility than those who were not in the
program. with help from his palliative care guide jim windhorse turned to acupuncture, xi xong classes and meditation. the result was a heartier appetite and less stress caused by chemotherapy and radiation. >> it was forming strategies on how to get out of the hole, start living again. >> reporter: these tools, he says, are making a difference, helping him be a better dad and husband while living with a deadly disease. it's further evidence, doctors say, that focusing on the quality of life can actually extend life. dr. nancy snyderman, nbc news, new york. >> when we come back, i want you to meet a couple of friends of mine who are here with us for tonight's "stand up to cancer" event. ere with us for tonight's "stand up to cancer" event. are you suffering from frequent heartburn ?
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who are changing the face of business in america. after 25 years in the aviation business, i kind of feel like if you're not having fun at what you do, then you've got the wrong job. my landing was better than yours. no, it wasn't. yes, it was. was not. yes, it was. what do you think? take one of the big ones out? nah. finally tonight, do not adjust your sets. >> we rarely appear together on the same screen at the same time but tonight is a special exception. we are really here. >> after all, one of our top stories on this day is about collaboration. >> you know the old expression there is no i in team. >> what about intrepid,
innovative and inspiring? >> they are all words that describe the dream teams of cancer researchers we have the opportunity. >> the hour-long star-studded program that airs tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern and pacific, 7:00 central time, is really a celebration of all that we can achieve together. >> it will give new hope to the 1.4 million americans dinosed with cancer every year. >> let's not forget the almost 13 million people who are living with it right now. so be part of this movement. >> as we fight a disease that's taken far too many people we love far too soon. >> please join us tonight as the three of us and the entire nation share one common goal. >> let's all stand up to cancer. >> and we'll see you soon. >> good night. >> okay. that's the magic of television. that's my friends and me from earlier. i wanted to say my own good night. from us to you, thank you for being here with us. i'm brian williams reporting tonight from los angeles. we do hope to see you later this evening for our special presentation.